The sixth Phillies lineup of the season was posted Thursday morning and Nick Williams’ name was left off yet again. The outfielder has started just twice this season and will likely sit again Saturday against Miami lefthander Dillon Peters.
Williams, after a strong rookie season, appears to be being used early this season as a reserve. He does not understand why.
“I guess the computers are making it, I don’t know,” Williams said, referencing the team’s reliance on analytics when charting a lineup. “I don’t get any of it but what can I do? I’m not going to complain about it because I have zero power. I’m just letting it ride.”
Williams last started on Wednesday in New York against Mets powerarm Noah Syndergaard. It was his first start since opening day, nearly a week earlier. He went 0 for 4.
“Coming in and facing a guy throwing 100 right away? That’s kind of set up for failure,” Williams said. “I’m just letting them do what they do. This is their job to do this. It’s not mine. I don’t have any say. I’m not a veteran.”
Gabe Kapler will be challenged to find playing time for his outfielders as he juggles Williams, Aaron Altherr, Odubel Herrera, and Scott Kingery in center field and right field. Herrera started Thursday’ 5-0 win in center with Kingery in right. Rhys Hoskins will get the majority of the time in left. Kapler said that during his playing career he needed regular playing time, not necessarily an everyday role, to “feel sharp.”
“Does that make for optimal conditions? No,” Kapler said. “We say, ‘How well can you perform when things aren’t perfect? When conditions aren’t set up perfectly for you to succeed?’ I think all of our guys are going to be sort of challenged with that. But on the flip side, there going to be put into positions to succeed because they’re going to be in good matchups, healthy, recovered, and rested.”
Williams arrived to Citizens Bank Park on Thursday already knowing that he was out of the lineup. Kapler has texted him his playing schedule in advance. Williams said he’s never had a manager text him like that. The one bonus, Williams said, is Kapler’s alerts allow him to stay up late playing video games without feeling guilty about it. Williams does not know when he’ll play next, but he said he will prepare as best he can.
“It’s hard,” Williams said. “I’m 24. I don’t have crazy experience but at the same time I don’t need to prove anything because of what I did last year off of great pitchers. For me, I don’t go out there thinking I need to prove anything, first off. But I don’t know. I’m just hanging with them, I guess. I can’t do anything. I’m just along for the ride.”
No heckling for Arrieta
Jake Arrieta stepped Thursday morning on the bullpen mound at Citizens Bank Park for the first time as a Phillies player. Arrieta — who threw a bullpen session to gear up for Sunday’s season debut — had been in that bullpen before. And his experiences as a visiting players were always a bit lively.
In 2016, a Phillies fan on Ashburn Alley heckled Arrieta as he threw below. Arrieta fired a strike, turned around, and asked the fan if he wanted to throw a pitch. The heckler had no response and the video of the incident went viral with nearly 600 thousand views on YouTube.
“It’s expected, especially here. And I enjoy that kind of stuff, just passionate fans,” Arrieta said. “Kind of trying to put a little something in your head before you take the field. It’s great to see that. It’s great to see passion from fans and giving the other team hell just comes with the territory. I’ll chirp back but it’s all in good fun.”
Arrieta threw 68 pitches Monday in Clearwater, Fla., before throwing 35 on Thursday. His start to the season was delayed after he signed with the Phillies a month into spring training. He pitched in two Grapefruit League games before the team left Florida. He said he has built enough arm strength to be “extended” on Sunday.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler was cautious with Aaron Nola on opening day, pulling the starter after just 68 pitches. Arrieta, a Cy Young winner and World Series champion, will likely be treated a bit different in his season debut.
“I think a lot of that, you’ve got to use the eye test,” Arrieta said. “If a guy is rolling then you may extend him a little bit longer and if you have high stress innings, one or multiple, then you kind of reevaulate and go from there. But I think you’ve got to watch the game and see how it unfolds and if you’re cruising then you would obviously like to continue to stay out there, but it’s tough to plead your case if you’re struggling to stay in the game. So it just depends on how the game unfolds and how things progress, but if I’m rolling I intend to be out there for quite a while.”